Will self-driving cars eliminate the livery industry as we know it today? A recent Reuter’s article seems to presage, at the very least, major changes.
According to a recent Reuter article, citing an auto industry cars source, ride-hailing service Uber is looking to place a “large order for self-driving cars.” Would a fleet of Uber-bots drive down, or even extinguish, the taxi and limousine industries? Because self-driving Uber cars would “make drastic savings on its biggest costs—drivers—if it were able incorporate self-driving cars into its fleet.”
A German source reported that Uber had indeed ordered “at least 100,000 Mercedes S-Class cars”—a “top-flight limousine” that, at this point, does not yet carry autonomous technology.
While a conflicting source “said no [such] order had been placed,” the prospect of thousands of driverless limos prowling our streets is intriguing. Uber declined to comment.
The article notes that fellow German auto manufacturer, BMW, stated its intention to launch “its own ride hailing service” to rival Uber.
This recent development comes in the wake of news that Google intends to create a self driving taxi firm to take on Uber. A Daily Mail article published in late-2015 explains the situation as follows:
the search giant is developing a ‘ride for hire’ service for the cars, putting it in a head to head battle with Uber, which has invested heavily in self driving cars. The fleets, which would include a range of large and small vehicles, could be deployed first in confined areas like college campuses, military bases or corporate office parks . . .
The article projects that, once people get a taste of the self-driving cars in confined areas, it could build confidence in the technology, allowing the cars to eventually pour over onto main streets across the country.
According to an article in Engadget, Japan is ahead of the curve. Noting a Wall Street Journal report company Robot Tax announced that it will start testing robot taxis this year, offering autonomous rides to 50 people in a suburb just outside Tokyo. The company anticipates having “a fully commercial service up and running by 2020.”
So the next time you need a ride home from the airport, will you have to flag down a cabbie, or press a button on your smartphone? Also, how do you tip a robot?
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